Peace is a word entangled with Christmas - although our experience of the Christmas season here on earth can be quite the contrary with all the chaos and muddiness of family affairs, crazy schedules, endless amazon deliveries (oh just me?), crazy caloric intake (certainly not just me here). And I agree with you, in the midst of all that chaos, there are some really special times during Christmas that portray a level of peacefulness; however, the real peace that songs and hymns and stories are talking about during Christmas aren't those tender moments around the fireplace, the sweet candlelight carols sung with friends and neighbors, the captivating twinkling lights draped on homes and trees, the harmony that happens in the split second of opening a gift before jealousy and envy from the sibling next to the recipient kicks in (y'all know it's true!)...all those things are sweet and wonderful, but by no means the peace being offered by the true meaning of Christmas. Those things are fleeting, and often strived for, but seem to either leave us wanting more from it or just disappoint us entirely. Rather, a favorite Christmas song captures it quite well: “Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled...” Peace is just that. God and sinners reconciled. Jesus came to bring us into the relationship and restoration with our God. Our God came to us so that we could know the peace that comes with knowing Him intimately. We couldn't reconcile ourselves to a holy God - we choose rebellion and disobedience every single day if left on our own.
As I reflect on the peace that God offers us in Jesus, I have gotten to know and meditate on the Hebrew word shalom. Shalom: a word I personally have attributed to Jewish customs my whole life - it's from all I could tell a traditional/cultural greeting hello and goodbye. As I have studied God's Word (and understood the significance of Israel, and the promises God has made to them being promises made to me that find their "yes" in Jesus today and eternally), I have started to see how beautiful and deep every recorded word of the history of Israel is, the significance of how God revealed who He was to them, the works He did among them and who He further revealed Himself to be through dwelling with us as the person of Jesus. This word shalom is one of those many words I may have heard a thousand times as ordinary until the Lord unveiled beautiful meaning through time getting to know Him.
Shalom translates to peace. Deeper still, shalom translates to complete or whole.
Shalom, then, is a peace that comes from feeling complete; being made whole.
A peace from lacking nothing.
We see shalom used throughout the Bible in this very way, but what I want to focus on here is one particular use of the word:
In Judges, the story of Gideon is being recorded. Gideon was one of the Judges over Israel, who - like most people we see throughout scripture - found himself questioning God and was still used to miraculously defeat enemies despite that lack of faith. (Read: we are all in good company. There's a seat for everyone at this table.) In Judges chapter 6 and verse 24, we see Gideon reveal a name of God to us as it is revealed to him: "Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it, 'The Lord Is Peace'." Other translations use the original language "Yahweh-Shalom". The Lord is Shalom....The Lord is the source of wholeness - where I lack nothing.
The peace we seek...the peace we crave: peace of mind, peace with others, peace with our future outlook, peace in each moment and circumstance....the TRUE lasting, real, authentic peace we seek does not exist outside of the the One who IS peace. When we look for peace outside of Jesus, we do not find the wholeness that only He offers. We are still incomplete. We are still seeking it in one way or another. We do not experience the rest that comes with the true knowledge of, deep dependence on and life-changing fellowship with the One who can restore us to wholeness.
It is only because of God's love in sending Jesus that we can experience this restoration and wholeness:
In Romans 5:1, Paul explains
"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
In John 14:27, Jesus puts it this way
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you."
In John 16:33, Jesus reiterates
"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."
Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 2:14
"For [Jesus] himself is our peace."
Through Jesus, we are brought to peace with our Creator, the one we were made to know and love and worship. Jesus offers us peace in Him. Jesus himself is our peace. Jesus is the source of the peace we are seeking; a forever peace that makes us feel complete...makes us feel whole; even when the world around us seems to be breaking piece by piece. He offers us this peace to extend to others because we have a wellspring of it now that will not dry out. It isn't seasonal, moody, circumstantial, or limited by time and energy...it is eternal. And this Peace arrived as a humble, helpless baby in a dirty stable, to a lowly teenager from a tiny, unknown city called Nazareth just over 2,000 years ago...
This Christmas, my prayer for you is that you see this "story" differently. That God gives you a fresh lens that looks at Jesus coming to earth in a brand new way. A heart that lays down the pride, the shame, the guilt, the doubt and opens to see Jesus's arms wide and ready to embrace and surround you with true, everlasting peace.
Shalom, friend. Merry Christmas.